February 3, 2012

Government to take a stand on reparations

Prime Minister Nahas Angula has announced that the Namibian government will at its own time and pace pronounce itself on the issue of reparations that the affected communities of Namas and Ovaherero, the descendants of the victims of the German war of extermination of 1904-1908, are demanding. "We are saying that if you are a decent person and you accept that you injured somebody, you do not need to be forced by another person to compensate," said the Premier after meeting Walter Lindner, the Director-General for African Affairs in the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany. Lindner, who is on a state visit to Namibia, two days ago apologized for the atrocities committed against the Nama and Ovaherero during the 1904-08 war. Angula said the Germans should be given time, adding, "I am quite sure eventually they will get pressure from their own citizens that they should do something."

Asked why government has taken long to roll out the 20 million Euro that is earmarked for projects in the affected communities, the prime minister said Germany gave the money to a German entity called KfW (a German development bank) and it appears procedures were not conducive for fast-tracking the projects. He referred further questions on the implementation of these projects to the National Planning Commission (NPC). On Walter Lindner's apology, Angula said it was not the first time that Germany had apologized and cited to the former German Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, who apologised in 2004 at the commemoration of the battle of Ohamakari near Okakarara. Lindner had apologized in a surprise move for the "terrible atrocities, bloodshed, brutality and racism" that the German government committed against the Ovaherero and Nama people. "He is just repeating what that Minister said," he added, saying that the only new apology was how the Namibian delegation that went to collect skulls in Germany was treated. Angula said Lindner was hiding behind the fact that the German Foreign Minister was in New York at the time and if he was in Berlin, things could perhaps have happened differently. "But he (Lindner) admits that part of the problem was caused by their own people who were carrying placards and 'threatening' the junior minister (Cornelia Pieper) who spoke at the handover of the skulls and left unceremoniously. The Prime Minister said he could, however, not understand why the German government did not bring law enforcement agents to that gathering.

On the other side, Lindner avoided questions about the German government's stance on reparations or whether his government had issued a formal apology. He only repeated the words, "I say sorry and the (German) government says sorry." In 2004, the German government distanced itself from Wieczorek-Zeul's apology saying the apology was done in her personal capacity. Some critics argue that Lindner's apology falls short of accepting responsibility for the genocide of a century ago. In the meantime, the Left Party in Germany said it would introduce a motion in the German parliament that would call for the recognition of the genocide committed by imperial Germany and ask for an official apology to the Namibian people by the German parliament. (New Era/The Namibian)


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